Seeing herself as a leader
Building from existing theory and research on gender and work and leader identity development, this dissertation informs our understanding of professional women's experiences with coming to see themselves as leaders as they move along the leadership path in organizations. Given limited work that considers variation among women at a similar point in their development, I introduce the construct of a gender-leadership frame to capture the various ways in which women construct their gender as relevant to their leadership. I consider how these constructions are both shaped by the organizational context and have implications for leader identity development. I conducted a qualitative, inductive field study of women developing as leaders (n=55) in a large, global bank to explore these ideas. I found that women hold different constructions of gender and leadership (gender-leadership frames) and that various elements of the organizational context prompt women to shift their frames, feel conflicted in their frames, or remain within one reinforcing frame. Further, I found that these different frame experiences orient women toward certain types of self-questioning and enactment of their leader identities. Together, these findings demonstrate that different ways of thinking about one's gender in relation to one's leadership may help explain women's different choices, aspirations, and development on the leadership path. Coming to see oneself as a leader does not happen in a vacuum, but rather is a complex process in which non-work identities (here, gender) play a role in one's understanding of who she is and can be as a leader. Not only does gender play a role in women's self-views as leaders, but scholars and organizations must appreciate women's different experiences and perspectives which have tangible implications for their motivations to pursue leadership opportunities and growth within their organizations.